Do you assess your students progress throughout the year?
Assessment is a common practice that helps educators see the progress of student growth and also see where more support may be needed.
Have you put your assessment results to work?
Much of the education world is focused on assessments. From computerized testing to state testing to school district/center requirements- assessment is just a way of life for teachers.
While assessment may seem long, extensive and sometimes exhausting we have to remember WHY we assess in the first place.
Watching the growth of a child throughout the year is one of the biggest rewards a teacher can get.
But, what if our assessments show that some of our children need a little extra support in certain areas?
Our job is to provide that support, of course. But, what is the best way to do this in a child-driven, child-centered approach?
My students thrive in a play-based classroom environment. I see this in day-to-day observations and I also see it when it comes to assessment. But, sometimes I have students who are just not quite there yet. The reasons could be many...but, it is my job to help my students anywhere they need...
So, enter Small Group Time.
It is a time for me to spend with those children who need extra support in a certain skill.
But, what do we do during small group time?
Here is the important part for me.... we could do worksheets, flashcards or drill and practice.... but we don't. We don't because I understand that this is not the best way children learn. So, what do we do? We play games and do hands-on activities. Simple right? Well, I do choose the game/activity based on the skill we are working on, but I try my best to make it a hands-on, non-boring activity.
How do I know which students to group up?
This is where your assessment comes in. Take a look at your class as a whole. Is there an area that all students are struggling with? If so, some extra attention to this skill during whole group time would be beneficial. But, most likely you will have a couple students that need extra practice in a certain skill. For example, you may have 3 students who need support in naming numerals. This would be a small group. These 3 students meet with you to play games and do activities to practice numerals.
Here are some other tips when it comes to small groups:
Keep your time-frame flexible: some children may not be able to attend to the task for more than 5 minutes. Take this into account. Making children push farther than they are comfortable with might make them resist this small group time, which is not the goal.
Don't lock children in. Groups are fluid. Some children may grasp the skill focused on in the small group faster than others. Pulling them out of that group, may be necessary to keep them from getting frustrated or bored.
Keep a log for each small group to note the skill, activity and progress of students. (free one in the planning kit below)
When it comes to what other children are doing... having small group time during free play is the best option for me. Sometimes this can make children want to hurry through the activity to get back to what they were doing. This is understandable. We have two free play times and I always do our small group during the second free play time, as this seems to alleviate this problem.
Need more tips? Would a small group log be helpful?
Download your Small Group Planning Kit (it's free)
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